In the days before television, people listened to

       Read the following and then do the radio activities at the end of the page.
Families and friends would gather around the radio in their lounge room, and listen to a variety of different radio programs. Radio content typically included a balance of comedy, drama, news, music and sports reporting.


A favourite program with many children and adults was Radio drama (or audio theatre.)  Radio drama is a form of audio storytelling broadcast on radio. With no visual component, radio drama depends on dialogue, music and sound effects to help the listener imagine the story.

It had its greatest popularity before television was introduced, during the period known as the Golden Age of Radio or Old-Time Radio (OTR) This is the period between the 1920s and 1950s. 

Radio drama achieved widespread popularity within a decade of its initial development in the 1920s. By the 1940s, it was a leading international popular entertainment. With the advent of television in the 1950s, however, radio drama lost some of its popularity. 

The single best-known episode of radio drama is probably the Orson Welles-directed adaptation of The War of the Worlds (1938), which some listeners believed to be a real news broadcast about an invasion from Mars.

Sound stimulates our visual imagination: it creates visual images in our minds. Radio Theatre  is telling a story by the careful mixing of sounds - both verbal and non-verbal. Background sounds are added, which identify location, setting, or the historical time. 

These background sounds are sometimes referred to as 'Foley Effects'. 'Foley Effects' are incidental naturalistic sounds of movement and business, recorded to match the action. They are named after Jack Foley, a Sound director for Universal Studios in the 1940's. 

For example, a restaurant scene might begin with voices, and then kitchen noises in the background are added. Then closer to the microphone, in the foreground, are added such sounds as plates and cutlery, and the pouring of wine shows what kind of restaurant we're in.

   Can you identify these sounds?  1.    2.    3.    4.    5.   6.   7.   8.
  (Right mouse click, select open in a new window)  9.   10.

Forest or outback scenes might have birds and insects. Then if you add a distant wolf howl, or close up footsteps, and chain saws, the story already begins to unfold without any dialogue. 

The sounds are food for your imagination, and these together with background music, can create vivid images in your mind and great entertainment.







               Radio Activities
On a new page in your book or work folder, put the heading: Old Time Radio, and then complete the following:
1. Study the above pictures and read the text. Explain how home entertainment between the 1920s and 1950s, was different to home entertainment in our  homes today. (Two paragraph answer.)
As you are the new generation that can multi-task! listen to the radio comedy shows as you write your answers.

2. What techniques did radio producers use to stimulate people's visual imagination and increase their listening enjoyment?
  (Also read the 'sound effects' section on the next page, before you answer this question.)
listening activities
continue on the next page